Crime drama serials, if made well enough, can be seriously memorable affairs. We all have our favourites from down the years, of course. Mostly though, we remember them as a whole – in their entirety. Rarely do we recall specific episodes – unless, that is, the makers decide to cut loose with one and get a little creative. The most common way to do just that? To zoom in and focus on something for a whole hour with no cutting to other plot strands. Often this means just one location and a limited cast is used. Called ‘bottle episodes’, they used to be employed for budgetary reasons. Now, the reasons behind them are mostly narrative based. And they often make for some damn fine television.
For us, the very best examples of this kind of the crime drama bottling come in the tenth episode of Breaking Bad season 3 – an episode called ‘Fly’ centring around the two main characters confined to cooking meth in a lab and getting annoyed at a pesky housefly. And in the unparalleled excellence that came with episode four of True Detective series 1, the stand-alone beauty ‘Who Goes There’ – a flashback about East Texan motorcycle gangs known for its incredible Steadicam shot, that rather bravely advanced the plot of the series in almost no way whatsoever.
The fourth episode of BBC Wales’ excellent and creeping series Hidden/Craith serves up something of a bottle at its midway point. There are no particularly flashy gimmicks, although slightly more flamboyant camerawork than usual is on show (to its credit). Instead, it’s more of a ‘zoom in’ effort.
Up to now, all three episodes have followed the traditional narrative structure you’d expect from a show of its kind, skipping between the crime/criminal and the police on his tail. Not so here. This week’s slice of Cymru Noir is a full forty five-odd minutes of serial abductor/killer Dylan Harris and his twisted home life. And what a forty five-odd minutes there are.
Most crime dramas hide the bad guy’s identity in order to create tension and a fun whodunit guessing game. In doing so though, you lose the ability to focus in on the most fascinating part – the psyche of the perpetrator. Sure, police procedure can be interesting and Hidden doesn’t shun that side, but its fascination with Dylan Harris and his twisted family – like a toned down version of Snowdonia Chainsaw Massacre – is gratefully received here.
So, then. Down on the farm and Dylan is bedding his new ‘patient’ (victim) in. After stepping out in front of his truck at the end of episode 3, Megan ‘chose’ her path apparently and our lanky antagonist is determined to keep her locked up in the basement of his grandparents’ burnt-out old house, to do with as he sees fit. His mother Iona appears angry at his latest kidnapping, but for a forceful woman she doesn’t exert much force around the issue. Does she secretly enjoy her son’s woman-snatching ways? It certainly seems she might.
Up until now, we’ve only really seen Harris’ doe-eyed and child-like side. We know he has a dark persona too, but it’s remained out of sight. His Mr Hyde peeks out from its Dr Jekyll shell a couple of times here, though, with Rhodri Meilir giving a wonderfully creepy and nuanced performance as the simultaneously sympathetic and skin-crawlingly terrifying Harris.
Witness to some of the evil doings, Dylan’s mute young daughter Nia now holds vital information that we’re imagining DI Cadi John and her partner Owen will be keen to tease out of her later on. You know, when the two of them are allowed back onto the show, that is.
Did you catch Craith/Hidden episode 4? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments below!